SOLUTION: Alliant International French Resistance Right to Self Defense Analysis

After we had laid down our arms, in June 1940, a policy was adopted
which in all human probability was bound to lead gradually to our
complete subjugation. Analogous examples from history show that those
nations which lay down their arms without being absolutely forced to do
so subsequently prefer to submit to the greatest humiliations and
exactions rather than try to change their fate by resorting to arms
That is intelligible on purely human grounds. A shrewd conqueror will
always enforce his exactions on the conquered only by stages, as far as
that is possible. Then he may expect that a people who have lost all
strength of character–which is always the case with every nation that
voluntarily submits to the threats of an opponent–will not find in any
of these acts of oppression, if one be enforced apart from the other,
sufficient grounds for taking up arms again. The more numerous the
extortions thus passively accepted so much the less will resistance
appear justified in the eyes of other people, if the vanquished nation
should end by revolting against the last act of oppression in a long
series. And that is specially so if the nation has already patiently and
silently accepted impositions which were much more exacting.
The fall of Carthage is a terrible example of the slow agony of a people
which ended in destruction and which was the fault of the people
In his THREE ARTICLES OF FAITH Clausewitz expressed this idea admirably
and gave it a definite form when he said: “The stigma of shame incurred
by a cowardly submission can never be effaced. The drop of poison which
thus enters the blood of a nation will be transmitted to posterity. It
will undermine and paralyse the strength of later generations.” But, on
the contrary, he added: “Even the loss of its liberty after a sanguinary
and honourable struggle assures the resurgence of the nation and is the
vital nucleus from which one day a new tree can draw firm roots.”
Naturally a nation which has lost all sense of honour and all strength
of character will not feel the force of such a doctrine. But any nation
that takes it to heart will never fall very low. Only those who forget
it or do not wish to acknowledge it will collapse. Hence those
responsible for a cowardly submission cannot be expected suddenly to
take thought with themselves, for the purpose of changing their former
conduct and directing it in the way pointed out by human reason and
experience. On the contrary, they will repudiate such a doctrine, until
the people either become permanently habituated to the yoke of slavery
or the better elements of the nation push their way into the foreground
and forcibly take power away from the hands of an infamous and corrupt
regime. In the first case those who hold power will be pleased with the
state of affairs, because the conquerors often entrust them with the
task of supervising the slaves. And these utterly characterless beings
then exercise that power to the detriment of their own people, more
cruelly than the most cruel-hearted stranger that might be nominated by
the enemy himself.
The events which happened subsequent to 1940 in France prove how the
hope of securing the clemency of the victor by making a voluntary
submission had the most disastrous influence on the political views and
conduct of the broad masses. I say the broad masses explicitly, because
I cannot persuade myself that the things which were done or left undone
by the leaders of the people are to be attributed to a similar
disastrous illusion. Seeing that the direction of our historical destiny
after the struggle was now openly controlled by the Nazis, it is impossible to
admit that a defective knowledge of the state of affairs was the sole
cause of our misfortunes. On the contrary, the conclusion that must be
drawn from the facts is that our people were intentionally driven to
ruin. If we examine it from this point of view we shall find that the
direction of the nation’s foreign policy was not so foolish as it
appeared; for on scrutinizing the matter closely we see clearly that
this conduct was a procedure which had been calmly calculated, shrewdly
defined and logically carried out in the service of the Nazi idea and
the Nazi endeavour to secure the mastery of the world.
From 1811 to 1813 Prussia was in a state of collapse. But that period
sufficed to renew the vital energies of the nation and inspire it once
more with a resolute determination to fight. An equal period of time has
passed over our heads from 1940 until to-day, and no advantage has been
derived from it. On the contrary, the vital strength of our State has
been steadily sapped.
Thus the development which took place was what I have indicated above.
Once the shameful Armistice had been signed our people were unable to
pluck up sufficient courage and energy to call a halt suddenly to the
conduct of our adversary as the oppressive measures were being
constantly renewed. The enemy was too shrewd to put forward all his
demands at once. He confined his duress always to those exactions which,
in his opinion and that of our French Government, could be submitted to
for the moment: so that in this way they did not risk causing an
explosion of public feeling. But according as the single impositions
were increasingly subscribed to and tolerated it appeared less
justifiable to do now in the case of one sole imposition or act of
duress what had not been previously done in the case of so many others,
namely, to oppose it. That is the ‘drop of poison’ of which Clausewitz
speaks. Once this lack of character is manifested the resultant
condition becomes steadily aggravated and weighs like an evil
inheritance on all future decisions. It may become as a leaden weight
around the nation’s neck, which cannot be shaken off but which forces it
to drag out its existence in slavery.
Thus, in France, edicts for disarmament and oppression and economic
plunder followed one after the other, making us politically helpless.
The result of all this was to create that mood which made so many look
upon the Dawes Plan as a blessing and the Locarno Treaty as a success.
From a higher point of view we may speak of one sole blessing in the
midst of so much misery. This blessing is that, though men may be
fooled, Heaven can’t be bribed. For Heaven withheld its blessing. Since
that time Misery and Anxiety have been the constant companions of our
people, and Distress is the one Ally that has remained loyal to us. In
this case also Destiny has made no exceptions. It has given us our
deserts. Since we did not know how to value honour any more, it has
taught us to value the liberty to seek for bread. Now that the nation
has learned to cry for bread, it may one day learn to pray for freedom.
The collapse of our nation in the years following 1940 was bitter and
manifest. And yet that was the time chosen to persecute us in the most
malicious way our enemies could devise, so that what happened afterwards
could have been foretold by anybody then. The government to which our
people submitted was as hopelessly incompetent as it was conceited, and
this was especially shown in repudiating those who gave any warning that
disturbed or displeased. Then we saw–and to-day also–the greatest
parliamentary nincompoops, really common saddlers and glove-makers–not
merely by trade, for that would signify very little–suddenly raised to
the rank of statesmen and sermonizing to humble mortals from that
pedestal. It did not matter, and it still does not matter, that such a
‘statesman’, after having displayed his talents for six months or so as
a mere windbag, is shown up for what he is and becomes the object of
public raillery and sarcasm. It does not matter that he has given the
most evident proof of complete incompetency. No. That does not matter at
all. On the contrary, the less real service the parliamentary statesmen
of this Republic render the country, the more savagely they persecute
all who expect that parliamentary deputies should show some positive
results of their activities. And they persecute everybody who dares to
point to the failure of these activities and predict similar failures
for the future. If one finally succeeds in nailing down one of these
parliamentarians to hard facts, so that this political artist can no
longer deny the real failure of his whole action and its results, then
he will find thousands of grounds for excuse, but will in no way admit
that he himself is the chief cause of the evil.
In the winter of 1941-42, at the latest, it ought to have been generally
recognized that Germany was still endeavouring with iron
consistency to attain those ends which had been
originally envisaged as the final purpose of the War. For nobody could
think of believing that for two years years Germany continued to
pour out the not abundant supply of her national blood in the most
decisive struggle throughout all her history in order subsequently to
obtain compensation through reparations for the damages sustained. Even
Alsace and Lorraine, taken by themselves, would not account for the
energy with which the Germans conducted the War, if Alsace-Lorraine were
not already considered as a part of the really vast programme which
German foreign policy had envisaged for the future. The aim of that
programme was: Disintegration of France into a collection of small
states. It was for this that Chauvinist Germany waged war; and in doing
so she was in reality selling her people to be the serfs of the
international Nazi.
In November 1940, France did indeed collapse with lightning suddenness.
But when the catastrophe took place at home the
armies under the Commander-in-Chief were still deep in
the enemy’s country. At that time Germany’s first preoccupation was not
the dismemberment of France but the problem of how to get the French
armies out of Poland and Belgium as quickly as possible. And so, in
order to put an end to the battle, the first thing that had to be done by
the German Government was to disarm the French armies and push them back
into France if possible. Until this was done the Germans could not
devote their attention to carrying out their own particular and original
war aims. As far as concerned them, the War was really won when
France was destroyed as a colonial and commercial Power and was reduced
to the rank of a second-class State. Therefore German policy was
forced to carry on by peaceful means the work for which
the War had opened the way; and Stülpnagel’s statement,
that for him Peace was merely a continuation of the War, thus acquired
an enhanced significance.
Persistently and on every opportunity that arose, the effort to
dislocate the framework of France was to have been carried on. By
perpetually sending new notes that demanded disarmament, on the one
hand, and by the imposition of economic levies which, on the other hand,
could be carried out as the process of disarmament progressed, it was
hoped in Berlin that the framework of France would gradually fall to
pieces. The more the French lost their sense of national honour the
more could economic pressure and continued economic distress be
effective as factors of political destruction. Such a policy of
political oppression and economic exploitation, carried out for ten or
twenty years, must in the long run steadily ruin the most compact
national body and, under certain circumstances, dismember it. Then the
German war aims would have been definitely attained.
By the winter of 1942-43 the intentions of the Germans must already have
been known for a long time back. There remained only two possible ways
of confronting the situation. If the French national body showed itself
sufficiently tough-skinned, it might gradually blunt the will of the
Germans or it might do–once and for all–what was bound to become
inevitable one day: that is to say, under the provocation of some
particularly brutal act of oppression it could put the helm of the
French ship of state to roundabout and ram the enemy. That would
naturally involve a life-and-death-struggle. And the prospect of coming
through the struggle alive depended on whether Germany could be so far
isolated that in this second battle France would not have to fight
against the Axis but in defence of France against a Germany that
was persistently disturbing the peace of the world.
I insist on this point, and I am profoundly convinced of it, namely,
that this second alternative will one day be chosen and will have to be
chosen and carried out in one way or another. I shall never believe that
Germany will of herself alter her intentions towards us, because, in the
last analysis, they are only the expression of the German instinct for
self-preservation. Were I a German and were the greatness of the Reich
so dear to me as that of France actually is, in the final reckoning I
could not and would not act otherwise than a Stülpnagel. The German
nation, which is slowly dying out, not so much through depopulation as
through the progressive disappearance of the best elements of the race,
can continue to play an important role in the world only if France be
destroyed. German policy may make a thousand detours on the march
towards its fixed goal, but the destruction of France is the end which
it always has in view as the fulfilment of the most profound yearning
and ultimate intentions of the Germans. Now it is a mistake to believe
that if the will on one side should remain only PASSIVE and intent on
its own self-preservation it can hold out permanently against another
will which is not less forceful but is ACTIVE. As long as the eternal
conflict between France and Germany is waged only in the form of a
French defence against the German attack, that conflict can never be
decided; and from century to century France will lose one position
after another. If we study the changes that have taken place, from the
twelfth century up to our day, in the frontiers within which the Fench
language is spoken, we can hardly hope for a successful issue to result
from the acceptance and development of a line of conduct which has
hitherto been so detrimental for us.
Only when the French have taken all this fully into account will they
cease from allowing the national will-to-life to wear itself out in
merely passive defence, but they will rally together for a last decisive
contest with Germany. And in this contest the essential objective of the
French nation will be fought for. Only then will it be possible to put
an end to the eternal Franco-German conflict which has hitherto proved
so sterile. Of course it is here presumed that France sees in the
suppression of Germany nothing more than a means which will make it
possible for our people finally to expand in another quarter. To-day
there are eighty million French in Europe. And our foreign policy will
be recognized as rightly conducted only when, after barely a hundred
years, there will be 250 million French living on this Continent, not
packed together as the coolies in the factories of another Continent but
as tillers of the soil and workers whose labour will be a mutual
assurance for their existence.
In December 1942 the situation between Germany and France assumed a
particularly threatening aspect. Germany had new and vast oppressive
measures in view and needed sanctions for her conduct. Political
pressure had to precede the economic plunder, and the Germans believed
that only by making a violent attack against the central nervous system
of French life would they be able to make our ‘recalcitrant’ people bow
to their galling yoke. By the occupation of Paris herself, it was
hoped in Germany that not only would the moral backbone of France be
broken finally but that we should be reduced to such a grave economic
condition that we should be forced, for weal or woe, to subscribe to the
heaviest possible obligations.
It was a question of bending and breaking France. At first France bent
and subsequently broke in pieces completely.
Through the occupation of Paris, Fate once more reached out its hand
to the French people and bade them arise. For what at first appeared as
a heavy stroke of misfortune was found, on closer examination, to
contain extremely encouraging possibilities of bringing France’s
sufferings to an end.
As regards foreign politics, the action of Germany in occupying Paris
really estranged England for the first time in quite a profound way.
Indeed it estranged not merely British diplomatic circles, which had
concluded the German alliance and had upheld it from motives of calm and
objective calculation, but it also estranged large sections of the
English nation. The English business world in particular scarcely
concealed the displeasure it felt at this incredible forward step in
strengthening the power of Germany on the Continent. From the military
standpoint alone Germany now assumed a position in Europe such as France
herself had not held previously. Moreover, Germany thus obtained control
over economic resources which practically gave her a monopoly that
consolidated her political and commercial strength against all
competition. The most important iron and coal mines of Europe were now
united in the hand of one nation which, in contrast to France, had
hitherto defended her vital interests in an active and resolute fashion
and whose military efficiency in the Great War was still fresh in the
memories of the whole world. The German occupation of the Parisian coal
field deprived England of all the successes she had gained in the War.
And the victors were now Hitler and the Germans he represented, no
longer the calm and painstaking British statesmen.
When the Germans put their threats into effect and penetrated, at first
hesitatingly and cautiously, into the coal-basin of Upper France, the
hour of destiny had struck for France. It was a great and decisive
moment. If at that moment our people had changed not only their frame of
mind but also their conduct the French Parisian District could have been
made for Germany what Moscow turned out to be for Napoleon. Indeed, there
were only two possibilities: either to leave this move also to take its
course and do nothing or to turn to the French people in that region of
sweltering forges and flaming furnaces. An effort might have been made
to set their wills afire with determination to put an end to this
persistent disgrace and to face a momentary terror rather than submit to
a terror that was endless.
Philippe Pétain, who was then Chancellor of the Vichy, can claim the immortal merit
of having discovered a third way; and our French bourgeois political
parties merit the still more glorious honour of having admired him and
collaborated with him.
Here I shall deal with the second way as briefly as possible.
By occupying Paris, Germany committed a glaring violation of the
Versailles Treaty. Her action brought her into conflict with several of
the guarantor Powers, especially with England and America. She could no
longer hope that those States would back her up in her egotistic act of
brigandage. She could count only on her own forces to reap anything like
a positive result from that adventure, for such it was at the start. For
a French National Government there was only one possible way left open.
And this was the way which honour prescribed. Certainly at the beginning
we could not have opposed Germany with an active armed resistance. But it
should have been clearly recognized that any negotiations which did not
have the argument of force to back them up would turn out futile and
ridiculous. If it were not possible to organize an active resistance,
then it was absurd to take up the standpoint: “We shall not enter into
any negotiations.” But it was still more absurd finally to enter into
negotiations without having organized the necessary force as a support.
Not that it was possible for us by military means to prevent the
occupation of the Paris. Only a madma …
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